Category Archives: Games

“You see an iron door at the end of the corridor. The door has three lightning bolts engraved on it.”

When I played D&D as a kid, I always wanted to be a magic user, not because it was easy, but because it was hard*. I died a lot in those days of d4 hit points and three worthless levels of cantrip spells before you got to do anything, but when a wizard survived and got powerful enough to melt goblins with fireballs … boy, was that awesome.

I don’t play as much as I used to, and I haven’t even run a game of my own or played in a regular campaign in a couple of years, but with the recent release of classic D&D modules as PDFs, I feel the itch to run Basic rules… you know, for kids.

GS-Tabletop-LogoIf I was going to play, though? I think I’d have to be a barbarian or fighter now, because I have fallen in love with the d12. It’s such a beautiful die, and it just doesn’t get any love at all (that’s why I chose it for Tabletop). I know it’s kind of weird to choose a class based on what kind of dice you’ll be rolling, but it’s where I find myself at the moment … and I’m really okay with that.
…Hmmmm I was going to write all about what it means to switch my preferred class from magic user to fighter based on the die I’d be rolling …. but now I can’t stop thinking that a Geek & Sundry show where I run a classic D&D campaign using Basic rules — maybe a modified module or series of modules or something like that — for six or eight episodes would be pretty awesome. Like, maybe a visit to the Lost City?

The walls of this room as plain stone. An oblong box made from stone slabs lies in the center of the room. Written in several languages on the side of the box are the words: "May the curse of darkness destroy all who dare desecrate my resting place." The box is 3' high, 7' long, and 3' wide. - From The Lost City (Dungeon Module B4)
The walls of this room as plain stone. An oblong box made from stone slabs lies in the center of the room. Written in several languages on the side of the box are the words: “May the curse of darkness destroy all who dare desecrate my resting place.” The box is 3′ high, 7′ long, and 3′ wide. – From The Lost City (Dungeon Module B4) Yes, this is actually mine and I actually scanned it. It was printed in 1980.

I mean, I’ll stay focused on making season two of Tabletop happen, but once we get that locked down, I bet an RPG show would be really, really great. (At least for me, because I’d have an excuse to play it: “Sorry, Anne, but I have to read this module and these rules and prepare these characters … because it’s my job and I have to do it so we can eat.“)

*I’ve written about this before, but I can’t find that post or story or column despite 20 minutes of searching. If it rings a bell for you, please let me know so I can link it.

I’m thinking about Tabletop

About a year ago, I finished shooting the first season of my show Tabletop, and had a few weeks off before we began editing the games we played into hopefully entertaining television.

I don’t remember what I did during those weeks — probably slept a whole lot — but when we got into editing, I clearly remember how terrified I was that the show wouldn’t work. The first cut of the first episode was (following my direction) too long, tough to follow, and just not as interesting as I wanted it to be. Luckily, Felicia Day was in the edit bay with me, and she knew exactly how to fix it. She gave notes and advice to the editor (who was amazing), and when we came back two days later to watch the second cut, it was an entirely different show. It was funny, it was entertaining, it captured how much fun it was to play the game. It was what I had always hoped Tabletop would be.

For the next few weeks, we cut the entire season, three episodes at a time, with three amazing and talented editors. By the time we got to the end of everything, we almost knew what we were doing!

As we got closer and closer to the premiere, I kept looking for the familiar nervous anxiety about how people would react, but it wasn’t ever there. I believed in the show in a way I’d never really been able to believe in myself, and I just wanted to share it with the world.

Tabletop’s premiere was a huge success that exceeded my wildest dreams. I think we got close to half a million views almost immediately, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. My friend John Rogers says that you should expect comments to be weighted 3:1 in favor of people hating on a thing, because someone who loves a thing goes “I loved that! I guess I’ll go back to my life now!” instead of going “I loved that! NOW I WILL ENGAGE ALL CAPS TO TELL THE PERSON WHO MADE IT HOW MUCH I LOVED IT.” Even with that adjustment, we were at like 10:1 positives to negatives.

As the season unfolded, I began to hear from game shop owners. When we played a game on Tabletop, it sold out. I heard from designers that when we played their games, they sold thousands and thousands of them. I heard from a distributor that one of the games we played sold out and had to go into a new printing — they thought 30,000 copies of the game would be enough, and they were wrong.

But the most amazing thing, that I didn’t even expect or think about even a little bit, were the personal stories from people who had been inspired to start up their own game nights with their friends and families because of Tabletop. One father told me that his tween kids spent every evening in front of their own computers or televisions, and after dinner he pretty much didn’t see his family until breakfast. But after watching Tabletop together, the kids were inspired to start a family game night. Tabletop, he told me, literally brought his family closer together.

There are dozens of parents of special needs children who have emailed me or talked to me at conventions, thanking me for giving them something that helps their children.

I even heard from a guy who felt like his marriage was drifting apart until he watched Tabletop with his wife and they started playing games together.

My ulterior motive with this show has always been to make more gamers by showing how much fun it is to play games, and I’m pretty confident that I can declare that effort an unqualified success.

Next week, we’re playing the Dragon Age RPG, and it will be the last two episodes of this season. We filmed it over a year ago, and I haven’t looked at it in almost as long. I don’t remember what happens, but I do remember how much fun it was to play with Chris Hardwick, Sam Witwer and Kevin Sussman in a game that was run by its designer, Chris Pramas. I’m excited for everyone to see it, but also a little sad that the season is coming to an end, because I don’t know if and when new episodes will air.

Tabletop means more to me than I ever thought it would, and the community that has grown around it makes me incredibly proud, but I didn’t do Tabletop alone. We had an incredible crew who could film people playing games in a visually interesting way. We had an incredible director who kept us together and focused on what was important. We had friends who came to play with me just because I asked, and game publishers who took a chance on our show without knowing exactly what it would end up being. I had an incredible creative partner in Felicia Day. I had a tremendously talented team of producers who pulled together an equally talented team of editors, who are the true unsung heroes of this entire effort.

And then there’s the community, which is as much a part of the success of Tabletop as anything. Whether you’re posting in the Geek and Sundry forums, sharing your stories and pictures on the Seen on Tabletop Tumblr I made, talking about games we played at Board Game Geek, or actually playing games with people who are important to you, you’re part of something wonderful.

So thank you for watching, and until next time … play more games.

#Tabletop Thoughts: Forbidden Island

If you’ve been watching any of the Geek and Sundry Google Hangouts I’ve been doing recently, you know that, though we haven’t officially been green lit for season two of Tabletop, I’m still playing tons of games so I know what we’re going to play if we do.

Games that we play on Tabletop have to fulfill a lot of criteria:

  1. Do I love it?
  2. Will it play well with four people?
  3. Can we play it in under an hour or so?
  4. Is it complicated enough to be fun, while being simple enough to explain in a few minutes?
  5. Is it fun to watch us play it?

It’s surprisingly easy to hit four of these criteria. The hardest ones to meet are 3 and 5 (stupid goddamn prime numbers have had it out for me ever since the first time I divided by zero.)

So there are games I am crazy about, like 7 Wonders, Dominion, Arkham Horror, Tribune, Agricola and Tichu, that we just can’t put on the show. This makes me sad, but there are even more games that I love that we can play, like Smash Up, King of Tokyo, Lords of Waterdeep, Star Trek Catan, and the game that inspired me to write this post in the first place, Forbidden Island.

Forbidden Island is designed by Matt Leacock, who created Pandemic, which kicked our ass on season one of Tabletop. It uses essentially the same mechanics as Pandemic, but instead of being scientists who are saving the world from infectious diseases, the players are adventurers trying to get artifacts off an island that’s trying to kill them by sinking into the ocean.

Like Pandemic, it’s usually won or lost by a few cards, but unlike Pandemic, it’s really great for kids as young as 8 (or precocious 7 year-olds). The themes are very family friendly, the artwork is beautiful, and the pieces are durable. Here’s what our board looked like when we started a recent game:

Forbidden Island Setup

Those tiles are the island, and the pawns are the explorers. As you play the game, you move around the island and try to collect cards that are turned in to recover the four artifacts. During the game, the island is trying to kill you by sinking, so tiles are constantly being removed from the board on almost every turn.

Here’s how it looked when we barely won:

Forbidden Island Victory

We won by either one or two cards, which was as exhilarating as any game of Pandemic I’ve ever played. For those of you scoring at home, we started on Elite difficulty, instead of the usual Legendary.

You can get Forbidden Island at your Friendly Local Gameshop. It’s a fantastic family game that is challenging enough and well balanced enough for serious gamers to enjoy.

If we get a second season of Tabletop, this is one game I’m absolutely going to play. Maybe I’ll even win this time. (HA HA YEAH RIGHT.)

#Tabletop is back! It’s Alhambra!

Yay! Tabletop is back! I didn’t realize how much I missed watching my show until just now.

Thank you to Shane, Ashley, and Dodger!

Congratulations, #Tabletop!

My show, Tabletop, was included in Giga Om’s The Best Of Web Video 2012, one of only four program(me)s singled out by Liz Shannon Miller:

Tabletop

Part of the Geek and Sundry YouTube network (along with Felicia Day’s Flog and the whimsicalWritten by a Kid), Tabletop was one of this year’s case models for the concept that web video audiences are ready for longer content.

The Wil Wheaton-hosted series sat geek celebs like Alex Albrecht, Morgan Webb, Jane Espenson, Amber Benson and Ryan Higa to play a wide range of dice, card and board games, consistently reaching six-figure viewcounts (impressive for a half-hour long show). But what I find especially cool abut Tabletop is the gaming community that’s come out of it, showcased primarily via the Tumblr blog Seen on Tabletop, where viewers are encouraged to submit their experiences playing the games featured on the show.

The last new episode of Tabletop was posted November 1st, but “Seen on Tabletop” is still updating regularly: Right now, it’s flooded with posts featuring the post-Christmas gaming adventures of its fans.

I’m so proud of Tabletop, and so grateful to everyone who has helped make it a success. As a rule, I don’t care about being included in lists or winning awards — I believe the work is what’s important and that the work should just speak for itself — but this is different, because we’re on a very short list with My Drunk Kitchen and Daily Grace, two of the funniest and most entertaining shows I’ve ever seen anywhere.

And I really love that she singled out the Tumblr community I created, which is only awesome because my fellow gamers keep submitting their pictures and stories to it.

The most important thing for us at Geek and Sundry is to make Tabletop an entertaining show that’s worth your time to watch, so we work very, very hard to hit that goal. But my ulterior motives are twofold:

1) Make more gamers by showing anyone who watches the show how much fun it is to play tabletop games, thus inspiring them to get together with friends and family to play.

2) Give gamers something to show their non-gaming partners, friends, or family to help them understand why we love games as much as we do, hopefully leading those partners/friends/family to number 1).

The community that’s been built at As Seen On Tabletop has ended up being a very big part of serving my ulterior motives, and I’m very grateful to everyone who’s submitted pictures and stories to it.

Tabletop comes back with new episodes starting on January 3, and we should know for sure if we get a season two very shortly after. Fingers crossed!

A map of a dungeon that never was, but may someday be…

Because project Get The Garage Organized was such a success, I was inspired to spend a little time on a related project, called Get My Office Organized.

In the process of cleaning up, going through stacks of papers and a considerable number of boxes, I found the dungeon map I drew for the title sequence of Tabletop. You only see it for a moment, and even then it’s just a small part of it, but I still drew a whole map like I would have in 1982. I’m confident that I don’t have to explain why.

I hereby release this into the world under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License for anyone who wants to use it (I suggest the original D&D red box rules), on the additional condition that you share with me how you populated it.

 

Some say that an ancient river runs through these tunnels, leading to parts unknown.
This image is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license.

Tabletop returns with all new episodes in January!

shirt dot woot is #Tabletop-tastic

For the next seven days, shirt.woot is offering some awesome designs — including mine — as part of their Tabletop-tastic sale:

Roll +1 for fashion! This week we’re

featuring some of our favorite board game- and tabletop RPG-themed designs on hoodies, totes, and tees! Because how else is everyone going to know you’re more civilized than they are?

 

If you need a new How We Roll T-shirt, always wanted a How We Roll hoodie, or your very own How We Roll tote bag (I’m in for thee, because they are amazing and perfect for carrying my games to gameday), you have about 160 hours to make it happen.

Oh! Oh! Oh! And I just noticed when I was making those links that they’re also offering How We Roll Remixed, which is the same design but on a black shirt. So, you know, now Neil Gaiman can wear one.

 

In which Rock Paper Scissors is played at the Montreal Comicon

Yesterday at the Montreal Comicon, a guy asked me if I would play Rock, Paper, Scissors with him. Of course I said yes.

I read him as a paper guy, so when we counted to three, I went scissors. He held up three fingers.

“What the hell is that?!” I may have almost shouted, every fibre of my being offended by the deviation from accepted Rock, Paper, Scissors norms.

“That’s the W,” he said. “It means that you automatically win.”

Just as quickly, I abandoned my blind adherence to the aforementioned norms, thrust my arms into the sky in the universal pose of victory, and made shouty noises about how I was so great.

But then … then … then it got awesome. He pulled a roll of duct tape out of his backpack, and he wrote my name on a piece of the tape, just like I do at the end of every episode of Tabletop . He held it out to me and said, “Now, for the rest of the day, everyone who sees you will know that your name is Wil, and you’re a winner.” (Just like I do at the end of each episode of Tabletop).

I shouted again, jumped out of my chair and asked him to take a picture with me, and then shouted some more.

I’m incredibly lucky and incredibly grateful that people care at all about the things I make, and it never fails to blow my mind that so many people, like this guy, do awesome things inspired by the stuff I do.

The picture below is me, wearing my winner’s tape, sitting in the Montreal airport while I wait for my flight home to board.

I’m sure this will be a FAQ, so: I am wearing my Bobak FerdowsiNASA Mohawk Guy Fan Club” T-shirt. It is awesome.

2012 Montreal Comicon – Day Two

“Will my talk be moderated, or am I setting the agenda?” I asked Dan, my convention liaison, as we got ready to head across the show floor to the theater were I’d be speaking.

He told me that I wasn’t moderated, and I could spend the hour however I wanted. I grabbed a copy of Sunken Treasure off my table and began putting together my mental setlist.

When we got into the theater, the Munchkin episode of Tabletop was playing on giant screens. About a thousand people were watching it while more people filled the remaining seats.

I’m not going to lie, Marge: seeing my show on a screen, ten feet tall and luminous, was awesome.

While I waited to go on stage, I looked through the book in my hands. I love the stories I put in there, but none of them really felt right. I cursed my damn brain for forgetting to remind me to remember to bring my iPad to the con, so I had access to the complete works of me,  Wil Wheaton, to choose from.

I looked up at the back of the screen, and saw myself playing games with my friends … and I knew exactly what I’d talk about.

When I was introduced, I walked out to a wonderful audience that made me feel like I was playing for the home team the entire time I was out there, even when I teased all of Canada about my Los Angeles Kings having the Stanley Cup. It was a great hour, where I spent about half talking about why I created Tabletop, and why gaming is so important to me. The second half I spent taking questions from the audience, talking about things from Sparks McGee to Stand By Me.

Even though I’m supremely jet lagged, and my scumbag brain has woke me up in the middle of the night and kept me awake for an hour two nights in a row that I’ve been here, I felt invigorated and damn good when I walked off that stage.

I know the talk was filmed and recorded. I hope it shows up online.

This is where I’d put a clever segue, if I wasn’t so fucking deliriously tired. Here are some pictures I took yesterday at the convention:

This adorable drawing was done by this adorable lady.

I made some more custom Cards Against Humanity cards:

I ran into two of my favourite people, and their booking agent photobombed us.

When someone asks you to sign a poster of the cast of Firefly, YOU! SAY! YES!

And then you sign right across Nathan Fillion’s junk.

So the the face I think I’m making is “oh my god this is so cute!” But it turns out that the face I’m actually making is Overly Attached Wil Wheaton.

The day ended with a game of Settlers of Catan. I started out fairly well, and then got trapped against the coast with 6 points. Luckily, I was able to build out toward the center of the board, get another city, and WIN THE FUCKING GAME with largest army and longest road.

I got so excited, I jumped up onto my chair, and nearly fell off the damn thing. I know the entire game was filmed by some guys, and I assume it will get online at some point. I’m red, if you want to try to put it all together. We’re playing on a beautiful, giant board.

I ended the day having a local beer (Maudite by Unibroue) with my friend Sam Witwer, who it turns out is on location in Montreal.

In about an hour, I’ll check out of my hotel and go back to the con for the final day. If the previous two days are any indication, it’s going to be great.

Here are my plans for PAX

Tomorrow, I'm heading up to Seattle for PAX Prime. This year, I hope to play a shitton of games, both of the Tabletop variety and the Video variety. To accomplish this noble goal, I'm not going to do a ton of signing like I've done in years past.

If you're planning to attend, and want to do things with me, or come see me do things, here's my schedule:

Friday Morning: Signing at Paul and Storm's table in Bandland.

Friday Afternoon: Playing Ticket To Ride in the Tabletop gaming area with Anne and the first five people who show up to play with us.

Saturday Morning: Signing at Paul and Storm's table in Bandland.

Saturday 3:30pm: Main Theater. Acquisitions, Incorporated. The Lost Episode. 

Sunday 11:30am: The Awesome Hour! Pegasus Theater. PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS HAS BEEN UPGRADED. THE AWESOME HOUR IS NOW THE DON'T FORGET TO BE AWESOME HOUR, WITH PAUL AND STORM, AND HANK GREEN. Also, I'll be there telling stories and answering questions.

Sunday 1pm: Signing at Paul and Storm's table in Bandland.

Important note about signings: I'm going to PAX this year primarly as an attendee, so I won't have my own table in bandland. Instead, I've convinced Paul and Storm to let me crash their table for roughly one hour each day. For specific times I'll be there, check my Twitter account, which I'll update throughout the weekend.

I'm also bringing fifty of these silly Wheaton Paper Dolls with me for sale. Hopefully, I won't have to schlep 45 of them back home.